For higher education institutions, the proper handling of chemicals and hazardous materials is critical to preventing or reducing health and environmental risks, considering that not only can chemical pollutant dispersion have local effects, but also global consequences.
Chemicals represent a wide array of potentially hazardous effects, including health risks like poisoning and cancer, physical risks such as flammability and corrosion, as well as environmental risks like water and soil pollution and aquatic toxicity. Students, professors, and employees who are directly exposed to chemicals must be provided with safe and healthy conditions to handle these substances and should be well informed, protected, and skilled at chemicals management.
The best way to achieve their proper handling is to perform an inventory of the chemicals in the different departments, check if they are correctly labeled, classify them by incompatibility, and have their safety data sheets with the corresponding information on risks and safety procedures. It is also important to assess their purpose and possible exposures deriving from their use. Once all risks have been identified, classified, communicated and assessed, a prevention and protection program for educational and research centers can be developed from the obtained data.
This program must include prevention and control measures such as using less hazardous chemicals, correct storage, wearing personal protective equipment when necessary, training staff in potential exposure situations, medical monitoring, as well as safety procedures and practices for the proper transportation and final disposal of chemicals.
Every day at UANL, thousands of students, professors, and employees carry out academic, research, or maintenance activities in laboratories, workshops, and printing offices, among others. Therefore, the members of our university who interact with chemicals and hazardous materials receive professional training to protect their health and physical integrity while promoting sustainable practices, which allows to fulfill the current national regulations on the management and disposal of these substances:
The Official Mexican Standard NOM-018-STPS-2000 requires all employers to establish a risk identification system for the chemicals used in the workplace—e.g., fire diamonds and safety data sheets.
By October 2018, the Official Mexican Standard NOM-018-STPS-2015 will be effective as harmonized system for the identification and communication of risks from hazardous chemicals use in the workplace. This standard aims to establish processes and protocols to develop a harmonised system of classification and labelling to identify hazardous chemicals and protect employees in case of emergency.
The UN Conference on Environment and Development (ONCED for its Spanish acronym) Brasil 1992, established the Globally Harmonised System of Classification and Labelling of Chemicals (SGA for its Spanish acronym) in accordance with the International Labor Organization (OIT for its Spanish acronym). The work began with the premise that systems should be globally armonized to address classification of chemicals, labels, and safety data.
The system has been designed to efficiently handle all chemical substances, including pure substances and mixtures. The system also implements protocols of communication in work places in order to prevent risks to human health and the environment.
Health risks Environmental Hazards
Classification criteria covers all chemical substances handled internally at UANL entities, including transportation, and emergency services, but it does not include consumer products, pharmaceutical, food additives, cosmetics, pesticide residues in food, and hazardous waste.
UANL is promoting the use of appropriate safety pictograms. Each pictograms consists of a symbol on a white background framed within a red border and represents a distinct hazard(s).
The pictogram on the label is determined by the chemical hazard classsification, as shown below.
Health effects of exposures to chemicals depend on the type and length of exposure, intake, airways, or dermal exposure. It has also to be considered who (group of employees) might be affected and how the material might harm them, it also depends on the age, and health status. Some of the health risks of people who violate safety standards are eye and skin irritation, mutagenicity, target organ toxicity, cancer, and even death.The Globally Harmonized System of Classsification is a system for standardizing and harmonizing the classification and labeling of chemicals. It is a logical and comprehensive approach to communicating hazard information, as well as protective measures, on labels and Safety Data Sheets at home or at work.